Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sunday scraps

I’m afraid it’s going to be another day for serving leftovers, because once again I didn't have time to cook from scratch. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a lot to chew on here.

Scammer Schemer Schirmer update
Word has it that Episode 2 of A Current Affair's program on
David Schirmer will be on the ACA web site on Monday (I am assuming that’s Monday Australian time, which for half a day or so will still be Sunday here in the US). The link only seems to work with Microsoft Internet Explorer, but if you don’t have Explorer and don’t want to download it, I’m sure the episode will be on YouTube within the next couple of days.

One of those who says he has suffered from Schirmer’s alleged misdeeds informs me that what we’ve seen so far on ACA is just the tip of the iceberg. And another person, commenting anonymously on my May 25 post, wrote, "The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), a government watchdog that investigates consumer fraud, is launching an investigation into David’s affairs." We'll see how that plays out.

There are a couple of lessons here. Well, actually, there are many lessons, and the big ones (such as, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is") have been and will be discussed at length. But here are two points that are sticking out for me at the moment:

Lesson 1: Being featured on The Secret isn’t necessarily a good thing. Most of its "stars" have spent the last year or so exploiting the heck out of the fame and celebrity resulting from, or enhanced by, their participation in Rhonda Byrne’s infomercial (and I think we could all name a few who have bragged about their Secret stardom ad nauseam). Well, Schirmer is a good example of how such fame can backfire.

To tell the truth, he probably wouldn’t have come up on the Whirled Musings radar screen at all if he hadn’t been in The Secret. Because most of his alleged victims are in Australia, his misdeeds have for the most part been ignored by the mainstream US media. With apologies to my new Aussie friends, that’s a reflection of the general narcissism of the US; if it doesn’t appear to directly affect us, then our media (and therefore our populace) don’t seem to pay much attention to it. In addition, I specialize in lampooning new-age/New-Wage hustledorks who are into self-help, pop spirituality and the like; for the most part, investment gurus are not my bailiwick. Don't get me wrong; I think that if the allegations against Schirmer are true, it's a very serious matter, and the people he wronged should be fully compensated. I'm just saying that the Schirmer scandal is probably not a topic I would have covered on this blog if Schirmer had been just another financial guru who didn't have a big presence in the States.

But The Secret connection – and the fact that Schirmer is now playing martyr by claiming that he is being attacked for his belief in the Law Of Attraction rather than for scamming good people out of untold amounts of money – landed him right smack in the middle of my Whirled.

As I’ve noted before, I have a feeling that Schirmer is far from the only hustler in The Secret who has pulled a scam or two, and/or who has been responsible for people wasting their money. (I realize, of course, that the concept of "wasting money" is subjective, as some people happily fork over hundreds or thousands of dollars for what would appear to others as negligible returns at best.) Schirmer's big mistake was extending outrageous promises in an industry that is more heavily regulated than most self-help/self-improvement stuff. And that brings us to…

Lesson 2: If you’re going to make your living as a hustledork, hustle something that is so nebulous (and/or so neutralized by disclaimers) as to render you impervious to lawsuits and investigations. First, don’t make your living by investing other people’s money in the stock market, or by doing anything else that is subject to heavy government regulation or scrutiny. Instead, you should hawk a new breakthrough technique or "technology" based on ancient secrets from the Hawaiians or the Mayans or the Lemurians or the Manchurians or one of your imaginary friends who claims to be an Ascended Master... or something equally vague that can be neither verified nor falsified. Second, take a lesson from the Disclaimers, Terms Of Use, Earnings and Income Disclaimers pages, and the like on the sites of the great netrepreneurs (the links usually appear in itty-bitty type on the very bottom of the hype pages). Use your hype pages to promise your marks everything, but be sure you retract all those promises put the qualifiers on the pages that no one reads. Hey, if they don’t read the legal stuff, it’s their fault, not yours.

It has been suggested to me more than once that some of the people who were duped by Schirmer were at least partly responsible for their misfortunes, for who could possibly believe in, say, a 1000-percent return on investment in the stock market? Granted, some people’s judgment gets a bit cloudy when it comes to money-making schemes. But keep in mind that, as one of my correspondents suggested, what we've seen so far about Schirmer may be just the tip of the iceberg. The promise of a 1000-percent ROI is just one part of this story. In any case, if Schirmer made promises that he had no ability or intention to keep, he should be held accountable.

Cosmic Connie a sexist?
Not only am I
wrecking families, but I’m a sexist too. Heather Vale, aka The Dana Scully of Success, sent me a comment yesterday implying that I used a different standard for describing women interviewers than I did for men. In an April 20 PS to my April 16 post (scroll down to "Do Mulder and Scully know The Secret?"), I described Heather Vale as a "hustledork groupie."

She wrote:

Interesting how a male interviewer is a conversationalist, but a female one gets dubbed a "groupie"?

I wonder what kind of message you're trying to send with this kind of comment. I'm sure you know how it comes across from one woman to another.

But for the most part I just find it amusing. Keep doing what makes you happy.


Heather Vale

I admit I had to go back and read my post because I didn’t remember calling anyone a groupie. But sure enough, I had. I immediately replied to her:

Sorry, Heather, no sexism intended. Yes, as a woman I am aware of double standards. I'm sorry if I offended you by my use of the word "groupie." That was obviously inappropriate.

I should have said you were a hustledork "fan." (The reason I say that is that many of the folks you have interviewed and say you admire are people whom I consider to be hustledorks.)

Barry Goss ["The Fox Mulder of Manifestation"] dubbed *himself* "Life Champion and Chief Conversationalist" at ManifestLife.com [one of his other web sites]. I was simply quoting his self-description; you'll notice that I put his description in quotation marks. Similarly, I included *your* self-description [from your MySpace page] of "talk show host, author, journalist, internet interviewer."

Anyway, I'm glad you were amused, and I thank you for stopping by.

So to clarify: In case anybody in any way interpreted my words as meaning that Heather is a "groupie" in the classic sense that she follows the hustledorks around on their tours and has sex with them, please know that this was not my intention. I wrote that without considering how it would sound to Heather, but the truth is I was using the word "groupie" in the same way that a lot of people use "junkie" – meaning someone who is enthusiastic about something almost to the point of being addicted.

All that Heather does, in case there is any doubt whatsoever, is interview self-help gurus, netrepreneurs, and pop-spirituality luminaries. And in retrospect, I see I made yet another blunder by not capitalizing "Talk Show Host, Author, Journalist, Internet Interviewer," when describing Heather in my original post, as these words were capitalized on Heather’s MySpace page. This is an especially egregious error because I had capitalized Barry Goss’ self-descriptions. I stand corrected; I intended no implication of inequality.

OMT: I should add that I am not a copyright / intellectual properties attorney, and really am not qualified to say whether or not Barry and Heather are violating copyrights belonging to FOX Network. There may very well be no harm in their calling themselves the Dana Scully of Success and the Fox Mulder of Manifestation, even though they are using the names of the main characters on the now-defunct TV series The X-Files. After all, Joe Vitale has called himself the Charles Atlas of the Internet (because of his love of bodybuilding) and the Buddha of the Internet (because of his great spiritual marketing wisdom). And so far, to my knowledge, neither Charles Atlas’ estate nor Buddha (or any Buddhists) have sued him.

BTW, Jody Sasche, self-described "Spiritual Warrior and Equal Opportunity Enlightener," and Barry Goss’s partner at ManifestLife.com, also recently commented on the same post that caught Heather's attention. Playing the good-sport role, he noted that he is glad I have found a creative outlet for my writings and opinions. Though in context that sounded to me kind of like someone professing relief that mental patients or rowdy children have arts and crafts to keep them occupied, I took his compliment at face value. Besides, perpetrating Whirled Musings does beat basket-weaving or producing bad art (though I suppose I’ve done my share of the latter lately).

I should note, however, that Jody does like the word "hustledork," which was coined by my partner Ron.

Strange bedfellows
I'm not above letting others do the cooking here once in a while. I keep meaning to share this little tidbit that a guy named Rick Belden, who lives in Austin, sent me last week. Rick wrote:

Last night I was scanning the dial on the car radio here in Austin, in the usual hopeless quest to find something worth hearing, when I stumbled upon a show about THE SECRET on, of all the crazy places, the Christian/Patriot/Conspiracy station. Just to be sure I wasn't hearing things, I checked
their web site today, and found the program description at the bottom of the page:

What We're Thinking
Ken Ludwig
As we see movies like "The Secret" and its participants appearing on Oprah as well as becoming much sought after speakers and coaches, it would seem that there is a need and desire to seek out a new paradigm. What has been referred to as "ancient wisdom" has been reincarnated, so to speak, as "New Thought" from the teachings of Emerson and Holmes to more recently Abraham/Hicks. This move to a more "spiritual" approach to life, business, health, finances and virtually all aspects of our existence is becoming more and more main-stream. It is Ken’s opinion that a more spiritual approach can and will change the course of our collective path in these most unsettling times. We seem to live in an ever more complicated and treacherous world, but is that the truth and does it need to be that way? His answer to both questions is a resounding, "NO"! This business coach and spiritual counselor will explore with you what really is the truth of our lives and how we can effectively get more of what we want and less of what we don’t.

My correspondent Rick added:

I found it especially bizarre and amusing that THE SECRET is being promoted on this particular station because so many of the other shows include a good deal of ranting and raving about the evils of the occult and other non-Christian, non-Biblical practices.

A visit to the aggressively patriotic web site confirmed Rick’s observation. Talk about strange bedfellows. Ken Ludwig himself is, on first glance, a run-of-the-mill hustledork / life-coach type. His partner in the coaching biz, Dawn Falbe, is a woman who seems to be very much into astrology. So what’s Coach Ken doing on a "Christian/Patriot/Conspiracy" station, as Rick describes it? Sheesh, that’s all we need – a right-wing, patriotic (as in militant US patriotism) Christian version of The Secret. I’m running for cover. Thank you, Rick, for sending this amusing (if slightly alarming) tidbit.

And that’s it for now… it’s back to work, and then maybe some play time too, if there’s any weekend left.

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Blogger Andrew said...

Nice piece on the Secret. I can see many holes in it too. I love the way you describe these sorts of New Agers... "New-Wage hustledorks". lol... Will use it myself one of these days. Some of it was inspiring like the Miracle Man. What worries me the most about this is that it is just another excuse for the rich West to keep up unsustainable levels of consumption as the ecosystem collapses because, well, everyone is creating their reality out of the infinite. The Secret seemed to imply that this beautiful earth was here for us to exploit. (Where were the pictures of cleared rainforest and polluted streams?) Perhaps what we need is a little humility to see that we are a part of a fragile whole rather than just more personal empowerment that only separates us from the web of life. Just some thoughts. Ax (EnergyGrid)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007 2:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The follow up on Schirmer that aired on Australian tv last Friday spoke to a a printer owed a reasonable sum of money for work carried out for Schirmer and also a former employee trying to retrieve wages/salary that he was owed.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007 3:21:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Andrew/Ax, I have some of the same worries you do. It's one thing to speak in abstractions about "abundance" and about the Universe having an "infinite supply" of wealth. It's quite another when one's desire for abundance is satisfied by "manifesting" fuel-inefficient sports cars or SUVs, or disturbing Maui's fragile ecosystem by building another gated community of McMansions. But as you implied, "The Secret" seems to be mostly about personal empowerment, web of life be damned.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks for the tip, Anon. I'll be posting a link to the ACA/Schirmer follow-up on today's post.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007 10:18:00 AM  
Anonymous tina jones said...

I hope this secret works as i am fed up of trying various combinations!!

Thursday, July 05, 2007 2:56:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Tina, there will always be a new breakthrough secret. You're just going to have to get used to it. :-)

Thursday, July 05, 2007 9:58:00 AM  

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